Making Quantum Computing Efficient and Secure

BMW-Stiftungsprofessur Copyright: © Andreas Schmitter

With the assistance of the BMW Group, Dominique Unruh (center) has been appointed professor of quantum information at RWTH Aachen University. Christoph Schäfle (left), Vice President for IT Strategy, Governance and IT Security at the BMW Group, and RWTH Rector Professor Ulrich Rüdiger are delighted to welcome Professor Unruh to their new role.


Quantum computing has been identified as a possible answer to the end of Moore's Law – in recent years, the exponential growth of computing power predicted by Moore has slowed down, with processor speeds stagnating. Identifying and tapping the potential of quantum computers early on and using them securely is a key driver for research and industry.

The new endowed Chair of Quantum Information Systems funded by the BMW Group provides a significant boost for research into this future technology at RWTH. The University has now celebrated Professor Unruh’s appointment in an inauguration ceremony.

Unruh comes to RWTH from the University of Tartu, Estonia, where they continue to be a professor of information security. Unruh previously conducted research at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and at Saarland University. Their expertise include software verification and, in particular, quantum cryptography.

Over a period of six years, the BMW Group will make 4.5 million euros available for the endowed chair, equipment, and staff at RWTH. A further one million euros will be paid into a networking trust that will promote interdisciplinary research projects at RWTH and the integration of the academic chair into both the higher education sector and into Forschungszentrum Jülich.

The joint overarching goal of RWTH and the BMW Group is to build a bridge between excellent fundamental research in Germany and the practical application of quantum computing. The new academic chair will be integrated into the Department of Computer Science and it will form part of the Information and Computer Technologies (ICT) Profile Area. This will further strengthen the research spectrum in the areas of modern information technology and artificial intelligence.

“The professorship makes a perfect fit with both the strategy of the ICT Profile Area and RWTH’s institutional strategy. It opens up exciting opportunities for new interdisciplinary collaboration and advancement of the field,” said Professor Joost-Pieter Katoen, head of the Chair of Software Modeling and Verification and spokesperson for the ICT Profile Area.

“Quantum technology is of great future relevance, as it has enormous potential for our advancement as a society. This endowed professorship will enable us to intensify our research in this area. As a university, RWTH wishes to engage in networking and we are convinced that we can achieve the best results for future challenges if we continue to benefit from the exchange of knowledge and technology with our partners from the fields of science, industry, and society.”

“Over the past ten years, RWTH has systematically built up expertise in the field of quantum computing. So far, the focus has been on basic physics research, including in the ML4Q Cluster of Excellence, and hardware development. The new academic chair will broaden the perspective to include computer science-related topics such as quantum software design and security. In addition, it opens up avenues for further strategic collaboration with Forschungszentrum Jülich within the Jülich-Aachen Research Alliance (JARA), where quantum computing is one of the key research areas,” said Professor Hendrik Bluhm, head of RWTH’s Quantum Technology Group and the University’s spokesperson for the ML4Q Cluster of Excellence.

RWTH has been a strategic partner of the BMW Group since 2017. RWTH is the second university at which the BMW Group is funding an endowed chair for research into quantum computing. Another one was established at TU Munich. In Munich, the focus of the academic chair of “Quantum Algorithms and Uses” is on the development of algorithms, whilst the academic chair at RWTH will focus on researching software integration and industrialization skills. The aim is to make quantum computing a viable and usable technology in the medium term.

“Quantum computing is a key emerging technology that has a wide range of potential applications, particularly in the automotive industry. Areas of application include new fields such as materials research for battery and fuel cell technologies or the use of machine learning and optimization processes. It is essential now to expand collaboration between research and industry in order to fully exploit this potential. Our goal is to create an open software ecosystem that optimally integrates quantum software and hardware and thus accelerates the industrialization of automotive applications. This is precisely where endowed professors at universities such as TU Munich and RWTH Aachen University make an important contribution,” emphasized Alexander Buresch, CIO BMW AG and Senior Vice President BMW Group IT.

In its role as a cross-university research and technology transfer unit, RWTH Innovation supports the strategic cooperation between the BMW Group and RWTH.